I met Tereneh Mosley designer for Idia'Dega about 11 years ago while living in Pittsburgh. We quickly found a way to partner and eventually became friends. She was smart, stylish and had great hair! Time flies but luckily some things stay the same. As the years have flown our paths have led us both to fashion. We were delighted to show her latest collection, Eni (Hers), at Warehouse Gallery during New York Fashion Week. Tereneh's work is alluring and collaborative in every sense.
Hi Tereneh; how are you?
Great! A bit of jetlag and reverse culture shock. This time last week I was in a tent in rural South Rift Valley in Kenya and today I was walking around NYC. But overall I am really thrilled to be back here and also to be back at Warehouse Gallery. I learn so much for you and Kamau, even in one day I learned something new about the collection and presenting work. It is wonderful.
We are excited to feature the Eni collection at Warehouse Gallery! We have been fans of your work since you started designing. Please tell us a little about your new collection.
And I am a fan of Warehouse! Thanks. The new collection is all about the way the OMWA ladies Olorgesailie Maasai Women Artisans always look so stunningly beautiful, timelessly elegant and feminine. The layers of dresses and kangas (Swahili fabric), their jewelry, no matter what they are doing. They can be gathering wood and they look like they could walk down the runways of Paris, they are so well put together. It is amazing. So the collection has to do with those elements of dress but also little extra feminine, colorful touches that you can add to make something even more special. So for example there are little beaded shoe clips, you can add a clip to your basic black pump, for some color and texture, a bit of something new and unexpected. We are also really about less, buying less, we are eco! So the idea is how to get one or two things to change the wardrobe, add elements to your wardrobe rather than recreate your look every season. I think individual style is more important than fashion. Even the women of OMWA, they have basic wardrobe but they wear their clothes differently. I can tell who is coming something just based on how their kanga is draped over their shoulders – J may show more shoulder than E, for example. I love that about how we dress, it is or it should be so personal not conforming.
I understand that you’ve spent 2-months in Kenya working with the Maasai women, in a village, to create this lovely collection. How did the collaboration come about?
I was lucky enough to have done my master’s thesis research and design work in Kenya, through a Rotary Foundation scholar program, ten years ago. I made great friends in Kenya, stayed in touch so when I finished a recent stint teaching in Asia I flew through Kenya rather than straight to the US. This was in 2013, I had emailed a group called SORALO, a Maasai-led conservation group, dedicated to the social, cultural, environmental conservation of the Maasai. They work with groups all over Kenya and has just formed this collective of women artisans in Olorgesailie. So in 2013, I went to Olorgesailie and literally “sat ‘round the circle” of women for weeks until one day, Esther Mpuyuk or “Chairlady” as she is called asked me why I kept showing up. This was all in Maa, which is a language I am still learning to speak. So anyway, I think me showing up all of the time and my patience helped them to trust me. So in December 2013 not long before my visa expired, we started sketching out ideas for our first collection. Which was a challenge in a way because most of the women of OMWA had never held a pencil because they had not gone to school. So we had to combine our design processes together to make something happening. We have just finished our second collection and are still redefining that process.
What advice do you have for young fashionistas interested in perusing a career in fashion?
Be curious about the world. If you only love or get jazzed about clothes, fashion is not for you. Fashion is about the woman wearing the dress, about the life she leads wearing that dress, not about the dress – Chanel said something to that effect. So true. You have to be curious about everything, everything. Design comes from everywhere. Watch, observe, sketch. Also think about the future of fashion. Where will it go based on climate change, shifting economic power and culture? One of my students in Asia said to me, “We won’t be able to wash our clothes in water, because it will be too precious to use, so what will our clothes be?” I think that is an interesting problem to be solved.
Completed dress at Warehouse
Bottom -- Kamau Ware (@kamauware)